Baseline to Baseline recaps: Bucks tried to give up 29 point lead, hang on to beat Nets

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Welcome to PBT’s roundup of the day in NBA action. Or, what you missed while watching some goat farmers win the Amazing Race

Jazz 117, Lakers 110: The Lakers most passionate and probably best player was Jordan Hill. That’s not a good sign. The Lakers defense was sad and Utah outworked them, we break it all down here.

Knicks, 112, Nuggets 106: Carmelo Anthony was back and the Knicks looked good in a win over the inconsistent Nuggets. Our own Brett Pollakoff broke it down for us.

Bucks 97, Nets 88: After an early 9-0 run by Brooklyn this game was all Milwaukee — the Bucks were up 7 after one quarter, 17 at the half and got the lead up to 29 in the third and that was just too deep for the Nets to get out of. Even though the Nets got it all the way back down to six in the fourth quarter. The Bucks got that lead because of their guards: Brandon Jennings had 18 of his 26 in the first half and Monta Ellis added 24 points on 13 shots. Gerald Wallace was key to the Nets comeback and had 9 of his 16 in the fourth quarter. Deron Williams had 18 on the night.

Clippers 102, Raptors 83: This game was tied 60-60 and was close until a 21-1 Los Angeles fourth quarter run — a run from their bench. Eric Bledsoe had 10 in the fourth quarter, Jamal Crawford and Ronny Turiaf added 6 each and no Clipper starter played in the fourth quarter. For the third straight game. That kind of bench is huge during a long regular season.

Thunder 104, Pacers 93: It was a tale of two halves. In the first half the Thunder didn’t put much pressure on the Pacers defensively and the result was David West with 13 points and Lance Stephenson with 10, combined they were 10-of-13 shooting. But in the second half the Thunder stepped up the pressure, Indiana shot 33.3 percent for the half and was 0-7 in the final 5:30, and that was all she wrote. Kevin Durant had 27, Kevin Martin had an efficient 24 for OKC

Magic 98, Suns 90: The gutted Magic have gone 3-2 on their road trip Phoenix has now lost seven straight. This game was decided at the end of the third quarter and into the start of the fourth when the Magic went on a 21-10 run to take the lead they would not let go. It was the Magic bench, which had 49 points, that was key — especially Andrew Nicholson, who had 19 points on 9-of-11 shooting, plus had 9 boards. J.J. Redick had 20 for the Magic; Shannon Brown led the Suns with 17 points but needed 16 shots to get them.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he doesn’t expect rookie Zhaire Smith to play in NBA this season

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Nerlens Noel, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons.

Zhaire Smith?

A few recent 76ers first-round picks missed their entire first professional season due to injury. Smith, the No. 16 pick in last year’s draft could join them.

Smith has missed the entire season so far with a broken foot then allergic reaction. He just returned to practicing with the 76ers, but maybe not in time to play for them this season.

Keith Pompey of The Inquirer:

If the 76ers clinch their playoff seed before the regular season ends, I wouldn’t be surprised if Smith plays for them. But meaningful minutes seem unlikely.

Philadelphia is trying to win now, and a rookie who entered the NBA relatively raw then missed so much time is unlikely to help.

That said, backup wings James Ennis and Jonathon Simmons aren’t exactly reliable options. If everything breaks right for Smith – essentially the opposite of his season to date – maybe, just maybe, he plays for the 76ers this season.

Warriors vs. Bucks or Raptors betting favorite to be NBA Finals matchup

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Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?

The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.

The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)

The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.

Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.

• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.

• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.

Likely No. 1 pick Zion Williamson leaves Duke-North Carolina game with knee injury

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Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.

He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.

In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.

His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.

Duke:

Hopefully, Williamson is OK.

And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.

Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.

But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.

Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.

Jayson Tatum guarantees Celtics will win 2019 NBA championship

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Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.

So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.

So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.

Tatum:

We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.

Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.

Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.

I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.